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Bridging the online offline gap


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This presentation describes a very effective method for building, engaging with, and activating a community.

Aimed at seasoned practitioners with a solid grasp of community and social dynamics, this deck walks you through the process of researching, planning, and executing a successful digital or real-world community.

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Bridging the online offline gap

  1. 1. Bridging theOnline/Offline GapHow to Build, Engage, and Activate Your CommunityPeter Flaschner – June 7, 2011
  2. 2. Agenda•  Intros•  Why community?•  How to build (or revitalize) a community (either on or offline)•  How to engage your community•  How to activate your community•  Weekly worksheet•  Questions and discussion
  3. 3. #Hashtag•  #mcc11
  4. 4. Introductions•  I’m Peter Flaschner•  Building communities online and off since 1998•  Lead a team of strategists, researchers, and consultants, designing and implementing social and community programs•  Work with clients The Globe and Mail, GE, HP, Purina, Unicef, MaRS, and 100s more•  Passionate about 3 things: unlocking potential, creating smart systems, teaching
  5. 5. Who’s here?•  Who here has an online community? –  More than 10,000 members –  More than 1,000 members•  Who here has a formal offline community? –  Membership events, familiar faces•  Does anyone have the word “community” in their title?•  Is anyone planning to launch an online community in the next few months?•  Is anyone having trouble growing your online or offline community?•  Does anyone have a problem with trolls in your community?
  6. 6. Why Community?•  Typical answers –  Engagement –  Cost deflection –  Retention –  Value add•  The right answers –  Intelligence –  Amplification –  Influence –  Innovation –  Activation
  7. 7. What do I mean by “community”•  Audience –  Member to member activity•  Multiple points of view•  Varying strengths of relationship•  Leadership•  Conflict•  Dynamic
  8. 8. Where does community live?•  Distributed or localized?•  Physical or virtual?•  Does it have a centre? A geography? A map?•  We tend to think of community as having a single form, or a single place, but just like the concept of self, “community” is flexible and dynamic. Your community strategy should reflect this.
  9. 9. Who owns your community?•  No one•  Everyone•  Not you•  You
  10. 10. Note 1: I don’t have answers•  Every community is different•  What I do have is –  a lot of experience –  the right questions•  I know what you need to know in order to build, engage, and activate your community•  AND, I know how to sell community internally –  (We can talk about this after if anyone is interested)•  I’m not going to give you off-the-shelf answers, instead I’m going to try to teach you how to find the right answers for your community
  11. 11. Note 2: COMMUNITY IS HARD TO DO•  It’s expensive•  It’s time consuming•  It requires fantastic instincts, special skills, and a deft and gentle hand –  Sound like parenting?•  It’s maddening•  It’s the most powerful tool in your arsenal•  Don’t do it halfway
  12. 12. Note 3: Do not use this for evil•  With great power comes great responsibility•  I’m about to show you a few very effective way to change behaviour•  The insights you’ll be able to glean from applying these processes will let you design powerful incentives. Use them responsibly 
  13. 13. Ready?
  14. 14. How to build a community, and how tobridge the gap•  Series of steps that works, every time•  Works for online and offline•  Works by engaging several innate human characteristics –  Empathy –  Trust –  Identity (aka ego)•  You’ll be successful, because this process creates a mutually beneficial outcome
  15. 15. People, Place, Purpose•  All successful communities balance three distinct characteristics: People, place, and purpose•  To understand how to build or bridge the gap in your community, you will need to answer –  Who are we talking to? –  Where do they congregate? –  Why will they bother?•  Applies not just to the formation, but engaging, growing and activating your community.
  16. 16. Who are we talking to?•  One group or more?•  What makes them tick?•  What are the habits and skill levels within the group?•  Do they engage online?•  What types of content do they react to?•  What types of events do they like?•  Are there existing leaders?•  We’re looking to understand –  What kind of training is required? –  What are the cultural “levers” that can be pulled? –  What are the paths of least resistance?
  17. 17. Where do they congregate?•  Where do they currently visit? –  Which websites? –  What features do they use? –  Which online services? –  Where are they geographically located? –  What physical services do they use? »  Libraries? »  Malls? »  Office buildings?•  Localized, distributed, physical?•  What events attract them?
  18. 18. Why will they bother?•  What’s in it for them?•  What needs will you fulfill? –  Not YOUR needs, not SOCIETY’s needs: THEIR needs –  Might need to think laterally -> you can’t really ask this directly, as most people don’t know why they do what they do
  19. 19. Why YOU should bother•  When you understand people, place, and purpose, you can design very effective programs to build your communities and bridge the online/offline gap•  Thinking about this through the people, place, and purpose lens will help you develop effective tactics to shape behaviour, ie –  Join your online community –  Participate in an off-line event –  Share important information –  Advocate•  These insights will impact much more than your community programs.
  20. 20. Research time•  Who, where, why•  Tools – – –  Google –  Facebook –  Radian6/Sysomos/Alterian/Lithium/etc – – –  Twitter search –  Telephone –  Email
  21. 21. Digital Habits Assessment•  What? –  Find out where your people spend their time •  Are they on Facebook? •  Do they visit your blog? –  Find out how they like to be communicated with •  Email or SMS? You’ll be surprised  –  Find out what types of content they like •  Video, podcast, short posts, long posts, etc –  Find out how and when they get online •  Mobile? At work? In the evening?•  Why? –  No spray-and-pray•  How? –  Survey and interviews
  22. 22. Content and Conversation Scan•  What? –  What are your people doing online? What are they saying? Where are they going? Who are the influential voices? What are the dominant conversational themes? What gets comments? What gets shared?•  Why? –  Fish where the fish are, with the right bait•  How? –  Google, Radian6, Sysomos, Nexalogy, Twitter search,
  23. 23. Digital Ethnography•  What? –  Digital stalking, with permission•  Why? –  Observe and identify subcultures. This is the “how I want to be talked to” part of the equation. Do this, and you’ll know the triggers and symbols relevant to your audience. –  Figure out which sub-groups to focus on •  Not all members are created equally •  Some create the content that others respond to. Very important to figure out which is which, and what makes them tick•  How? –  Interviews and observation
  24. 24. DON’T SKIMP ON THE RESEARCH•  Don’t skimp on the research•  Don’t skimp on the research•  Don’t skimp on the research•  Don’t skimp on the research•  Like building a million dollar house on a crappy foundation. It’s dumb and dangerous.
  25. 25. Who, Where, Why•  People, Place, Purpose•  We now have a good sense of who our audience is, how they engage, what they like to talk about, and the symbols that are important to them
  26. 26. Case study: HOHOTO•  People:•  Place:•  Purpose:•  Started physical•  Evolved online•  Distributed community•  HIGHLY strengthened by the online/offline dynamic –  Parties are a great way to bridge the gap! •  Fundraisers •  Barn raisers
  27. 27. Goal: Seed Community•  200-ish people –  Small community? Smaller seed community –  15-20 is fine, but with more you’ll have more turnout at meetings•  Private, closed, exclusive•  Tip o’ the iceberg•  Works for brand new and established communities•  Alpha -> Beta -> Public for new communities•  Alpha -> Beta -> Program launch for existing communities
  28. 28. Recruit•  Can combine a call to action in your survey, but not necessary•  Looking for volunteers•  Sources? –  Lists, followers, fans, visitors, colleagues, etc•  Screen carefully –  Look for characteristics that will help you in your mission •  Propensity to share, writing ability, level-headedness•  50-200 people –  1%/9%/90% typical community engagement –  4%/36%/60% seed community engagement
  29. 29. Alpha process•  Germinating the seed•  Purpose is to work with your seed community to get insight, create super users, and have the community move towards self- righting/self-moderation –  Done via tasks and conversations •  EG, brainstorm tactics to bridge the online/offline gap •  Goal is innovation, influence, and amplification•  Momentum is key –  Create a habit •  Motivation •  Repetition •  Speed
  30. 30. Alpha stage 1•  60 minute conference call•  Introductions•  Highlight benefits of participation•  Test findings –  Topics –  Digital tools•  Set expectations –  Frequency –  Time•  Overview of first tasks –  Tasks include things like prioritization exercises, brainstorms, content reviews, etc
  31. 31. Alpha stage 2•  60 minute conference call•  2 weeks after call 1 –  Review call 1 –  Tour of the communication forum, basic functions only (for new digital community) •  Email list, forum software, blog, etc •  Make sure they know how to use it •  Run through subscription process –  Assign a task •  Complete an introduction thread, brainstorm a name, prioritize topics, etc •  You must ask for feedback on something –  Name, design, features •  Goal is to kick this off on the call, and move it online. Get members using the tool
  32. 32. Alpha stage 3•  1-2 weeks after call 2•  60 minute conference call•  Answer questions•  Advanced feature tour –  Subscription review•  Review tasks•  Pick a hot topic and moderate a discussion –  Goal is to move this online•  Weekly email summaries start•  MOMENTUM IS KEY
  33. 33. Beta•  1 month•  Invite a friend –  Limit the invites. 5 per Alpha member –  Exclusivity•  Task assignment –  Ie, What can we do to make the launch huge? Could also be mission related•  May run for longer than 1 month depending on tasks assigned•  Goal is to create a lot of activity, and to get the members excited about the upcoming public launch•  Weekly email summaries with calls to action•  NOTE: if you’re not trying to build a localized community, you may need to skip this step 
  34. 34. Launch/Relaunch/Release the Hounds•  Hooray!•  Lots of TARGETED, RELEVANT content•  Tasks completed –  Members engaged in outcomes•  Active members•  Blast this thing wide open –  PR, Email, Web, Social –  Most importantly: release the hounds! •  Let your members do the work they want to do
  35. 35. Case study: Obama campaign•  Used online community to drive to offline events•  Used offline events to recruit for online community –  Virtuous circle•  Used strong incentives, gleaned from research, that tapped into deep human needs, to achieve results –  Leader boards –  Challenges –  Socializing –  Ego/Identity
  36. 36. But wait, there’s more•  Decided community is worth the investment•  Research•  Seed community•  Expanded to the broader community•  NEXT! –  How to engage and activate your community on an ongoing basis
  37. 37. How to Engage Your Community•  Digital Habits Assessment + Content and Conversation Landscape Scan + Digital Ethnography –  Creates a map of the territory, both online and off –  Features of the map can be grouped into •  Themes •  Channels •  Locations –  Tells you •  What to talk to your community about •  How they want to be talked to •  Where they want to receive your messages •  How to motivate them
  38. 38. It’s all about content•  Broadly speaking, there are three types of content –  Value-add –  Relationship building –  Activation
  39. 39. Value-add content•  Used to build trust, demonstrate expertise•  Usually, most of you content will fall in this area•  Can be planned and scheduled •  Examples include –  Brochures –  Reports –  Updates –  Tips –  Links directly related to your purpose•  NOTE: to be resonant, your content may need to be tweaked so that it ADDS VALUE to the reader –  Don’t tell me what you did. Tell me how it impacts me.
  40. 40. Relationship building•  Build interpersonal connections•  Stories•  Humour•  Examples include –  Links indirectly related to your purpose –  Introductions –  Personal anecdotes –  Questions
  41. 41. Activation Content•  Once you’ve got a good thing going, you can activate your community•  The best activation messages come from the community –  More influence –  Greater amplification from community members
  42. 42. How to Activate Your Community•  First, identify desired outcome –  What can you measure? •  You’re probably not going to get it perfect the first time •  What you can measure, you can direct –  Decide: can you get all the way there from here? •  Do you need intermediate steps?•  Then, decide which of the two possible ways you will activate your community: –  Direct •  I ask you to do something, you do it –  Indirect •  You decide to do something on your own
  43. 43. Direct Activation•  Pros: –  Quick –  Easy –  Cheap•  Cons: –  Short lifespan •  External motivators –  Can only do it a few times before you alienate your community •  PBS Pledge Drive
  44. 44. How to create Direct Activation•  Build trust –  Relate –  Demonstrate•  Start small –  Simple task •  “Slactivism” gets a bad name. It’s only step 1 –  Demonstrate what you did •  Doesn’t even need to have been successful•  Big ask
  45. 45. Case study: Avaaz•  Avaaz does this beautifully. They close the loop on small actions, building trust and willingness to engage in larger actions
  46. 46. Indirect Activation•  Pros: –  Longer lasting change •  Internal motivators –  Spreads •  Becomes an identity marker •  People need to talk about it•  Cons: –  Takes time –  Takes expertise
  47. 47. How to create Indirect Activation•  AKA changing behaviour•  Identify a goal –  Simpler the better. A simple root level goal will touch multiple outcomes•  Identify pathways to achieve that goal, for example –  Awareness –  Interest –  Intent –  Action•  Test and refine with community•  Develop content and experiences that address each step along the pathway –  String them together with calls to action•  Engage community members individually as they travel the path
  48. 48. Case study: Globe Catalyst
  49. 49. Mind the gapBoth digital and physical communities thrive when there isongoing engagement
  50. 50. Case study•  MCC –  Who’s been here before? •  Did you make new friends, or connect with old ones? •  How often did you talk to each other in the first month following the conference? •  What about the 3rd month? •  The 8th? –  A digital extension of the community that forms here at MCC would help strengthen the ties between participants over time
  51. 51. Tying it all together•  What I’ve tried to do today is give you a sense of how you can figure out the tactics that will help bridge the online/offline gap with your communities•  We talked about –  Why you should invest in your community –  How to build, and engage your communities using a seed community –  How this all comes together with content•  This all comes together in the day to day –  Editorial calendar –  Channel strategy
  52. 52. Editorial Calendar•  Themes•  Channels –  Blog –  Website –  Social –  Community –  Email
  53. 53. Sample Editorial Calendar
  54. 54. Frequency is important
  55. 55. Channel strategy•  Localized and distributed communities need a channel strategy•  Help define where and when you engage with both the online and offline communities –  50,000 channels –  Not everyone is in one place •  Some hate email •  Some hate Twitter •  Some hate Facebook –  How do you manage it all?
  56. 56. Signposts vs Embassies•  Prioritize•  Not every channel can be an Embassy•  Lots of signposts, pointing to a few embassies•  Set and manage expectations –  Explicitly state purpose of channel –  Be consistent
  57. 57. Don’t forget email•  Email is the single biggest driver of community participation online
  58. 58.  Daily planning•  All of this theory comes together in the day-to-day•  I’ve put together a worksheet that neatly summarizes most of what we’ve talked about today
  59. 59. Questions?•••